The documentation for the Virtual Persona tool is now available on the REPAR website. It includes extensive video tutorials for end-use as well as development of the tool. Links to download the tool itself are also provided. Feel free to leave some feedback in the various chapters of the documentation!
Some of the VR software applications/prototypes that were developed during the case studies of Sub Project B are now available here, hosted on Google Code. The website includes packages with ‘release’ versions (e.g. sort of ready to use) as well as source code for all the projects (released under FreeBSD licence).
The repository currently includes the Virtual Persona tool (a generic version released as ‘virtual world‘) and the Blender/SurfaceTable interface. BlendAR (Augmented Reality in Blender) and the new prototype for case study 3 will be added soon.
REPAR Sub Project B will facilitate a workshop about “Using VR in user centred design processes” on the Design For Usability symposium this year. From their website:
Design United would like to invite you to the ‘Design for Usability’ Symposium which will be held at Media Plaza in Utrecht on World Usability Day, November 08, 2012. At this symposium, a practical and effective mix of presentations and workshops will give you insights into the latest usability methods & tools. This Symposium continues in the tradition of the successful World Usability Day events organized in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The workshop description is as follows:
Workshop 4: Using Virtual Reality in User Centered Design
VR (Virtual Reality) allows us to experience (see, hear, feel, control) things that do not yet exist. This makes it an attractive support tool for user centered product design; end-users can experience future products without the need for designers to create expensive physical prototypes. We firstly present an overview of a number of case studies where VR facilitated user centered design tasks. We then discuss some of the pros and cons encountered. During the second part of the workshop, we invite you to brainstorm and discuss potential VR opportunities and bottlenecks in your specific design domain. The workshop is intended for product design practitioners with (some) experience in user centered design.
I just completed a long overdue update of the overview of publications.
During the last Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) meeting, the REPAR researchers organised an interactive workshop. The workshop intended to communicate our view of an integrated design process in which the input from all three sub projects is used, and to let the participating company representatives reflect on this view.
The envisioned design process was presented as a storyboard to the group. After going through the storyboard (explaining each of the 15 slides), we asked the participants to reflect on the storyboard slides; how well does a particular action/event on a slide translate to a situation in your own company? The participants used red and green post-its to indicate ‘problematic’ or ‘feasible’ translations respectively.
The storyboard and post-it’s were a good starting point for some discussions about the design process and the use of REPAR tools and methods.
idAnimate (Sub Project A) is generally considered a useful tool throughout the early stages of the design process, but mainly to create and present ideas in an early stage within a design team.
“… it might me a good tool to let customers express their thoughts; sometimes you talk for an hour, thinking you understand the customer demands (or the other way around), but in the end you don’t.”
There is some hesitation about letting end-users create animations/visuals with idAnimate themselves.
Discussions related to virtual reality (Sub Project B) were mainly about ‘fidelity’ of the environments. Discussion about different ways of using VR made clear that it depends on the type of product involved, the particular aim of involving users (e.g. evaluation, configuration, generation, etc.) and other aspects. It should be noted that there we some discussions about this topic from which it can be concluded that there are a lot of different interpretations of what VR is or isn’t, and what ‘high fidelity’ and ‘low fidelity’ are (see transcript). Furthermore, there was an interesting discussion about the difference in fidelity of context and products. Sometimes, a high fidelity context can support detailed discussions about a product without also representing that product in high fidelity.
Concerning the co-construction stories (Sub Project C) the main outcome of the workshop was the reaction of the representatives from the companies on using other REPAR tools in different phases of the co-constructing stories method. There was some discussion about the use of idAnimate by end-users while they are sharing their stories with the designers. In order for idAnimte to support co-constructing stories, the tool should be instantly usable for end-users participating in the session. The designer can facilitate this by preparing some libraries in advance. Furthermore, the focus of the designer should not only be on what is created by the end-users with idAnimate but also on what the user is telling while he is creating a particular visual.
“… the use of these tools is important because it allows users to explain things; why things happen in a particular way, but it’s not about what they look like.”
The discussion about the use of VR applications in relation to co-constructing stories was limited to the use of VR applications in general and did not reveal much insights from the method point of view.
The following is concluded from the workshop session.
- Seeing all the sub projects in an integral storyboard helps company representatives with understanding the relations between the sub projects (concluded from post-session discussions).
- The group exercise could be repeated in a more company-specific storyboard: instead of using a generic topic, show how the integrated tool chain would work for a specific company’s product development process.
- The more ‘concrete’ the sub project topic, the easier it is to discuss it in this setting; participants had no problem with imagining the use of idAnimate in various scenes of the storyboard, while the co-constructing stories (a method) and VR (specific applications) are more difficult to ‘play around’ with.
Overall it’s been a useful exercise for both the researchers and the company representatives, mainly by providing a shared view on the current state of the sub projects, as well as the relations between the sub projects.
The Joint Virtual Reality Conference (JVRC) 2011 took place on September 20-21 in Nottingham, UK.
This Joint Virtual Reality Conference of euroVR and EGVEÂ is an international event which brings together people from industry, commerce, research includingÂ technology developers, suppliers and all those interested inÂ virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality and 3D user interfacesÂ to exchange knowledge and share experiences of new results and applications, live demonstrations of current and emerging technologies and form collaborations for future work.
The conference included parallel scientific and industrial tracks, with technology demonstrations and exhibitions in between the presentation sessions. The REPAR contribution to the conference consisted of the paper entitled “User Centred Methods for Gathering VR Design Tool Requirements”.
The paper presents the VR case study carried out for the first company in sub project B. In a 25 minute presentation the audience was informed about the case study activities, such as the group workshops and tool demonstrations, and some conclusions about applying VR in design domains were discussed. It was an interesting ‘different’ presentation, because the audience (being part of the scientifi track) was primarily involved with relatively detailed topics, such as rendering techniques, communication protocols and physics engines. In this context the REPAR work is quite a high-level perspective on how to apply VR in design domains. After the presentation there was plenty of positive feedback on the presentation as well as the content/topic of the research.
In addition to the scientific presentations the industrial presentations were also quite interesting. In the session that was attended, Rolls Royce (engine design for jet planes) for instance gave an overview of their use of VR, which actually turned out to be quite limited. Especially the complexity of the products and the number of different engineers working on different parts makes it very difficult for the company to change anythingto the tool chain, let alone introduce new tools and/or methods. Furthermore, there were some interesting key-note talks; one outlining the use of VR in Volvo (by Dennis SaluÃ¤Ã¤r) the other with a scientific perspective on “Body Representation” in immersive VR (by Mel Slater). Last but not least, the demonstrations and exhibition allowed everyone to try out state of the art head-mounted displays, tracking suits and various types of immersive displays.
The International Symposium on End-User Development (IS-EUD) took place between June 7th and June 10th in Torre Canne, Italy. A definition of EUD can be found on the official EUD website:
End-User Development (EUD) offers lightweight, use-time support which allows end users to configure, adapt and evolve software themselves. Traditional Software Engineering approaches reach their limits whenever the full spectrum of user requirements cannot be anticipated or the frequency of changes cannot be accommodated by traditional processes. EUD refers to a set of methods, techniques, and tools that allow users acting as non-professional software developers to create, modify or extend a software artifact.
In a nutshell, end-users are enabled to program or configure their software according to their own needsÂ (more than just changing options or adding plugins). As end-users are not experienced programmers they need user-friendly interfaces to adapt their software (think of visual programming languages, macro’s, etc.).
Given the focus on end-users and software development, I submitted a short paper (about Sub Project B) to the doctoral consortium (DC) of this symposium. The DC is an opportunity for PhD students to present and discuss their work in progress with peers. In the short paper, the general research approach and the results of the first VR case study were outlined. The first day of the symposium was reserved for the DC (and workshops), so I had to present and discuss my work at the first day. The presentation and discussion were quite useful and inspiring, but mainly on a research level. In the current stage of my research EUD is not really relevant yet (it is more towards User Centred Design and Participatory Design, which was also pointed out during the discussion afterwards) because the focus is not on developing actual software tools (yet). Nevertheless, EUD principles are good to keep in mind when developing future VR tools, because it could potentially help with creating generic tools that can be customised by the end-users (product designers) to match their specific applications.
I spent the remaining days on visiting the paper presentation sessions where I came across various other interesting projects. Some were quite similar to our own Sketchify, so it would be good for Sub Project A to at least go through the proceedings.
The first issue of the REPAR monthly newsletter is available online. We intend to use the newsletter as a means to keep you up-to-date on the REPAR sub projects, share relevant publications and announce events. In this first edition you’ll find a quick update of each sub project and a list of (future) publications.
Download Newsletter #1, January 2011 (PDF)
After receiving reactions from most of you the date suiting most people is Tuesday April 5, so please note the following in your calendar:
REPAR Industrial Advisory Board meeting
Tuesday April 5, 2011, 14:00 – 17:00.
Location: Still to be determined
The agenda and documents will be distributed in due time.